Harvard Summer Program in Dakar, Senegal

June 16, 2018 to August 11, 2018
Apply by: 
January 25, 2018

Learn about modern Francophone Africa while exploring the diversity of Senegal. 

Modern Senegambian culture is the product of centuries of cultural, economic, and political interactions between Arabs, Europeans, and Black-Africans. In this program, you have the opportunity to travel throughout Senegal and study the many artistic, religious, linguistic, and cultural influences that have shaped and continue to influence modern Senegambian societies. 

Program Structure

Your studies will focus on academic books, novels, pamphlets, the arts, painting, cinema, crafts, and music to investigate the various sources of influence that shaped—and continue to influence—modern Senegambian societies. In addition to lectures, discussion, and movie viewings, you also visit Islamic and Christian sites of pilgrimage in Senegal, shrines of African religions, museums, and village art. You also attend drumming performances by Senegalese musicians.

Your classroom discussion sections will be held in English and French. Relevant teaching materials (e.g., academic texts, novels, and movies) will be for the most part available in both English and French. You have the option to read texts, watch movies, attend discussion section, and write course papers in either English or French.


This program counts for one full-year course (8 credits) or degree credit. AAAS S-137 also meets the General Education requirement for Culture and Belief or Societies of the World, and for Study of the Past.

In addition, concentration, secondary field, or foreign language citation credit may be available from Romance Languages and Literatures, if all coursework is done in French. Please consult the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures for more information.

AAAS S-137 Study Abroad in Dakar, Senegal: Belief, Culture, and Society in Francophone Africa (33769)

Ousmane Kane
8 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

This summer course is offered in Dakar and introduces participants to the study of belief, knowledge, and society in francophone Africa.

The introduction situates Senegambia in world history and political economy, and particularly its place in the slave trade. Lectures explore the formation and transformation of the religious landscape of Senegambia. How were Islam and Christianity introduced, appropriated, and transformed in Senegambia? How did they interact with African traditional religions? What factors paved the way for their spread in Senegambia? How did they contribute to the education of the elites and production of knowledge?

The course looks at educational pluralism and its impact in Senegambian societies. With the spread of Islam, an educational system using Arabic as a medium of instruction flourished in Senegambia. It trained elites who made a major contribution to the production of knowledge in Arabic language and in African languages written with the Arabic script. During the first part of the twentieth century, Senegambia was under French colonial rule. Colonial rule introduced an educational system in French, which became the official language of administration and business. Christian missions played an important role in this educational effort. The two systems of education (Arab-Islamic and French) have persisted since the colonial period, influenced each other, and produced elites who set up the terms of the debate in the public sphere of postcolonial Senegambia.

The course concludes by looking at postcolonial transformations and highlights the various ways in which interactions between Arabs, black-Africans and Europeans produced a culturally hybrid society. Focusing on novels, pamphlets, the arts, painting, cinema, crafts, and music, this part of the course explores this hybridity as well as the different expressions of social and political concerns in Senegalese society. In addition to lectures, discussion, and movie viewing, participants visit Islamic and Christian sites of pilgrimage in Senegal as well as shrines of African religions. They also visit village arts, and attend wrestling matches and drumming performances by Senegalese musicians.

Where You Live and Study

Dakar, Senegal's capital and largest city, offers an ideal location to study West Africa's colonial history and postcolonial transformations. 


Students stay in apartments close to the West African Research Center where curricular activities are held.

How to Apply

Review How to Apply before submitting your application.

Application materials include: 

  1. A statement of interest in the program
    • Include information on relevant coursework and travel experience abroad (previous travel is not required) 
  2. Transcripts
    • Harvard College applicants: You may submit an unofficial transcript accessed from my.harvard.edu.
    • Non-Harvard applicants: Submit an official transcript from your university.
  3. A $50 nonrefundable application fee

Note: Interviews may be requested.

All application materials are due January 25, 2018. You will be notified of admission decisions by mid- to late-February.

Apply Now 


The program fee includes tuition, accommodation, scheduled excursions and activities, and some meals.

See Funding and Payment for information on how to submit payments and funding options. 

Student budget

In addition to the program fee, you will need to budget for a number of personal expenses: 

  • International airfare ($1,600 to $2,000)
  • Local transportation ($150)
  • Some meals ($1,000)
  • Personal expenditures, laundry, communications, and miscellaneous ($500)

Please note: The amounts are approximate, and you may incur additional expenses not listed here. Your actual expenses will depend on a number of factors, including your personal spending habits and currency exchange rates. If you have specific questions about budgeting, please contact the program directly.

Additional Information